Harnessing big data has the potential to solve big problems. That's the message Gordon Moore is sending with his support of a major new cross-institutional initiative aimed at improving data collection, analysis, and sharing in an effort to advance scientific understanding and discovery.
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, along with the foundation named for longtime GM President, CEO, and Chairman Alfred P. Sloan, are the major funders behind the five-year, $37.8 million effort that will facilitate collaboration on data management and analysis research. New York University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Washington will be the main partners in the initiative, although the program has been left open to the possibility of including other partners pursuing similar data-intensive scientific goals. "Working together, we believe we're going to shift the culture at our universities — and help accelerate broader uptake — for supporting data-intensive discovery," says Ed Lazowska, faculty lead at the University of Washington.
Modern technology has greatly increased the speed and volume of data collection already, but this can help spur scientific advancement only if the tools to analyze and disseminate that data are improving at a similar rate. "Dramatic expansion in the scale of data collection, analysis and dissemination could revolutionize the speed and volume of discovery," said Chris Mentzel, Moore's Data-Driven Discovery program officer. Ultimately, the tools and techniques developed through this collaboration could impact a wide range of scientific discovery from fields as diverse as astronomy, biology, oceanography, and sociology.
Another major goal of this program is to recruit and keep more data scientists. "It's been hard to establish these essential roles as durable and attractive career paths in academic research," explains Josh Greenberg, director of the Sloan Foundation's Digital Information Technology program. "This joint project will work to create examples at the three universities that demonstrate how an institution-wide commitment to data scientists can deliver dramatic gains in scientific productivity."
More information on the program can be found at the Moore Foundation.